During questioning at the long-awaited Chai Hour II Hotel trial on Tuesday, two female defendants admitted to selling a 17-year-old girl’s virginity to a customer for $1,000, but the hotel’s owner and manager both denied any knowledge of the incident.
The Chai Hour II first gained notoriety on Dec 7, 2004, when 83 women and girls were removed from the hotel after by police and anti-trafficking NGO Afesip.
However, seven suspects arrested during the raid were released just hours later by police on the orders of a powerful official.
The following day, approximately 30 men forced their way into the Afesip shelter and released all the women that were taken from the hotel.
Te Pao Ly, the 34-year-old owner of the scandal-wracked hotel, is facing charges of conspiracy to traffic persons and illegal possession of a K-59 handgun. Manager Sam Leng, 56, is also facing a conspiracy charge at Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
San Sinith and Khun Navy, both 21, are charged with human trafficking for attempting to sell their housemate’s virginity to an unidentified man on Sept 7.
The alleged victim testified that she asked her housemates to sell her virginity because she needed the money to help her family.
“I was destitute,” she said. “I begged them.”
She added that she could not remember the face of the man who paid $1,000, but said he disappeared without having sex only minutes before police came in.
Lawyer Pov Sreysour, who represents the two female defendants, argued that his clients were innocent of human trafficking because they did not lure or force the victim to sell herself.
San Sinith said she worked at the hotel playing karaoke videos and had met the unidentified man the night before the incident. Khun Navy said she did not work at the hotel. Te Pao Ly and Sam Leng denied knowing either of the female defendants.
Sam Leng and both the female defendants were arrested immediately following the payment, and Te Pao Ly was arrested 10 days later in Koh Kong province. He said his absence from the scene of the crime proved his innocence of the conspiracy charge.
Te Pao Ly initially said that pornographic videos found in the raid on his hotel—which was also a karaoke and massage parlor—were left by friends. But when pressed for his friends’ names, he admitted that the videos were sometimes played for customers who requested them.
Sam Leng denied pornography had been shown at the karaoke and massage establishment.
Te Pao Ly also defended his possession of the handgun found at the scene, stating that he only had it because he had formerly served as an RCAF intelligence officer and hadn’t returned the gun after returning to civilian life.
Presiding Judge Kong Seth called the male defendants’ claims of ignorance of events in the hotel an “excuse” to escape imprisonment, but he didn’t issue a verdict or announce a follow-up date when he stopped the trial proceedings shortly after 5 pm.